Editorial: Online dangers for youth and body image

It’s no news flash that we live in a digital age. The idea of not being connected through your phone, your computer and whatever iDevice you like is akin to being told to live in the stone age with communication through cave painting. But all this connectivity can make ever-present problems even worse.

Just as the youth of today is more connected than ever to the digital world, going along with new advances and communication devices that are already out of style before the rest of us catch up, they find themselves at the forefront of the dangers out there.

The experts agree that cyberbullying can make the experience of growing up far worse than it was even 10 or 20 years ago. But the issue goes beyond that.

That’s why it’s so important for parents (and the connected youths themselves) to not just be aware of the problems that are out there but to know how to communicate about them in a way that’s actually constructive.

The issues go beyond just making sure kids know where not to go online and what not to do. There are issues that can’t be solved with blocking software that involve body image and what the digital age has done to make those critical issues of confidence far worse than they used to be.

The trauma that comes with trying to pull off the impossible task of looking and being perfect is nothing new. It’s an issue that can (and usually does) impact people from 9 months to 99 years old. But the Internet has made it worse, particularly for young women.

The country’s worship of celebrity and the impossibility of perfect beauty have for a long time left young women striving for a goal that can cause physical and mental damage. And social media, with all the pictures out there, compounds the pressure, especially when it’s so easy for an anonymous commenter seeking to do nothing more than stir up trouble to shatter self-confidence with a few cruel taps of a keyboard.

In a digital world where even celebrities trying to meet societal expectations of perfect beauty can be called fat, it’s clear this is not an issue to be taken lightly. And that’s where education and communication is so critical.

It’s important for people to know that help is available and these kinds of pressures do not have to be kept on the inside where they can do serious damage. The danger out there is not just from predators online but from websites promoting anorexic and bulimic lifestyles.

Those are dangers our kids have to be aware of, and it’s not easy to talk about this. That’s why it’s good to see awareness grow. Being smart and open about all the dangers online is a vital step toward fighting them.